Posted by: ronclegg | March 13, 2012

Tony Rice Plays Shenandoah……

This video gives you a bird’s eye view of Tony’s fantastic technique. Check his fluid picking, clever and economic left hand technique, and, of course the exquisite tone that he is famous for. He is one of the few that can use a Martin flat top style guitar in a jazz format and make it work (Scott Nygaard is another that does it). Of course, this song is not a jazz piece… I’ve presented it mostly for its close camera work of Tony’s facility with the guitar…… I took this series of photos of the Tony Rice Unit in 1985, about the time they had released the album entitled “Still Inside” which I think is one of the all time best “jazz grass” records.

Toy Rice Unit circa 1985

John Reishman with his Gibson Lloyd Loar F-5 Mandolin<a

I love Tony’s his jazz-infused, experimental “spacegrass” with the Tony Rice Unit on the albums “Mar West”, “Still Inside”, and “Backwaters”. These albums with John Rieschman on mandolin, Fred Carpenter on Violin, and Tod Phillips on bass are breakthrough albums which feature Tony and his bandmates playing at a high level that has rarely been matched.

Backwaters has a superb version of “My Favorite Things”… I highly recommend a listen to this exciting and original interpretation of a jazz classic.

More about Tony…… Two highly regarded albums with traditional instrumentalist and songwriter Norman Blake garnered a great deal of acclaim, as well as two Rice Brothers albums that featured him teamed with his late elder brother, Larry and younger brothers, Wyatt and Ronnie. 2007 saw Tony team up with Alison Krauss and Union Station for a string of spring concerts, drawing material from Rice’s 35 year career. Krauss always has cited Rice as being her prime musical influence.

Rice’s most recent recording for Rounder is “Quartet”, the second collaboration with bluegrass and newgrass legend Peter Rowan. Despite recent problems with his voice related to dysphonia, Tony Rice remains one of new acoustic music’s top instrumentalists, bringing originality and vitality to everything he plays.

Photos and Text by Ron Clegg

These photographs were taken at Highland Park in Ben Lomand, Ca around 1985!



  1. I absolutely love “Backwaters,” by The Tony Rice Unit. I still have a ‘working’ cassette copy that I carry in my purse with a stereo tape recorder (from back-in-the-day). When I go shopping or step onto an elevator, you should see the reactions I get. Folks think they’re ‘hearing things,’ and they are. It’s what Tony once referred to in an interview as that ‘weird stuff.’

    • yes, Backwaters is awesome…! Portable cassette players playing Tony Rice in elevators… hilarious. That’s my kind of elevator music 😉 I found a CD of Backwaters on EBay years ago and snapped it up. You might look there… Those 4 musicians had an amazing telepathy going on. John Reishman the mandolinist still comes around with his excellent band. Tony doesn’t play anymore due to arthritis and tendonitis. Here is a great piece written about him 2 years ago—

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